July 25, 2014

2014 = Summer of Mandatory Fun?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:35 pm

crop of Urban callage

On the morning of Thursday, July 24, 2014, it looked like the hot topic for weekend round-ups would be a reconsideration of the death penalty because an execution on Wednesday went badly awry but the drawback to addressing a topic that would draw massive amounts of weekend punditry is that to stand out from the crowd, a columnist would have to produce the most eloquent commentary on the topic or else be lost in the crowd like the voice of a member of a choir.

The alternative solution to the challenge is to use the counter-programming solution and pick a topic that everyone else is ignoring but the drawback for that option is that it could turn out to be something so arcane and esoteric that no one will read it.

For example, it seems quite likely that on the weekend when Californians flock to Gilroy for the annual Garlic Festival no reporter, pundit, or columnist in the United States will mention the fact that Kel Richards wrote a retelling of John Bunyan’s immortal story as an item titled “Aussie Pilgrim’s Progress.” Such a hypothetical column would not be bloody well likely to catch the attention of Republicans, Democrats, Yankee, Dodger, or Giant fans and so would languish in the backwaters of the Internet unread and ignored.

Book fans might be intrigued by the question: How did a copy of that particular item, in mint condition, wind up being sold used in Berkeley Ca?

If a columnist were to draw his audience’s attention to the plight of a disk jockey named Peter Choyce, who details his struggles with adversity on Facebook, other people in dire circumstances would resent the fact that they hadn’t been given the chance to be (potentially) catapulted onto the road of recovery by columnist.

Hellé Nice, whose story is told in Miranda Seymour’s book “Bugatti Queen,” was winning car races in France in the Thirties long before Danica Patrick’s parents were born.

We have always known who Nat Hentoff was but we were unaware that he had written a book titled “Free Speech for Me – But Not for Thee,” until we picked up a (n autographed?) copy of it in a bargain bin in Berkley. He examines the irony in the fact that in a country where the young men are sent to die in battle to preserve the right of free speech some words are automatically disqualified from discourse because they are prima face evidence of “thoughtcrimes.”

We had considered writing a column this week that would fit the headline: “Has Fox cried ‘Wolf!’ too often?”

A political influence peddling case in the San Francisco Bay area may cause some nationally known pundits into making some comments generated by this question: “Is political influence peddling a matter of a binary choice or can it be perceived as an illustration of the concept of a gray scale used by photographers shooting black and white style images?

Does a political campaign donation really work as a flat out gift or is it understood that they are given with an implied promise of quid pro quo lurking in the background?

One advantage of doing political punditry as an example of three dot journalism column writing is that it makes the bumper sticker response by tolls a very murky strategy because it won’t be clear which particular item is meant to be refuted by posting a “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” comment.

Could the word “Benghazi” be an intellectual’s inside joke regarding an army (Rommel) out running his supply line? If so, how could that idea be relevant to a discussion about various military actions occurring in the world this week?

As far as using an obscure WWII battle ground name to make a point with today’s rather ill-informed news audience, wouldn’t it be better to say: “Tobruk, Tobruk, Tobruk!”?

Speaking of the Vichy forces, we have been told by a source we consider well informed, that during WWII a submarine working for the Vichy government made a bold play and pulled in New London, C and asked for and received supplies and fuel under that guise of being part of the Free French forces. That SNAFU was fictionalized and became the novel and movie “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians are coming!”

Speaking of the Free French Forces, if the World’s Laziest Journalist News organization suddenly goes silent that could mean that our Ford Model T computer wore out or it could mean that we have impulsively gone down to the Going Places office and do some fact checking regarding the 70th anniversary for the liberation of Paris.

We knew a fellow who reported that he and a nurse who spoke French went AWOL from a hospital and went into Paris less than three weeks after the Liberation. In the spirit of thee dot journalism; his succinct report was that they had a good time. At one point, he says, he went into one of Paris’ finest restaurant and had the best meal of his life. The management at that restaurant refused to give him a bill. For a G. I., in Liberated Paris, making it “on the house” was a matter of honor.

There were 64 journalists killed in action covering WWII, and when Edward R. Murrow went on the “What’s My Line” TV show in 1952 (it’s on Youtube) to publicize (and raise funds for) a memorial, the man with one of the Twentieth Century’s most distinctive voices had to switch to a high pipsqueak deliver to fool the panel for a short time.

Recently at the Lox, Stock, and Bagel in Berkeley CA, we overheard a fellow doing an interview about something we consider to be on the top ten list of most intriguing topics from the Twnetieth Century. It took all the self control we could must to restrain our self from jumping into the interview which was about what it was like to deliver copies of Combat newspaper (it was a capital offense) in Occupied Paris.

Will violations of net neutrality ever become a capital offence?

The fact that some members of the German military were authorized to act as judge, jury, and executioner on the spot, brings up another question: Is it too harsh to impose a death sentence on war criminals? That, in turn, brings us to the point where the death penalty must be considered and that brings us full circle because that is the same question that this column had for a starting point.

[Note from the photo editor: An Objet trouvé collage seemed like a good way to illustrate a column featuring a pastiche of facts, history, and trivia.]

In his biography of John Steinbeck, Jay Parini wrote: “But life is plotless, a random onslaught of facts and events that often lack a discernible pattern or arc of development.” He should have added the words: “ . . . until a political pundit comes along.”

Now, the disk jockey will play Weird Al Yankovic’s new album, “Mandatory Fun,” in its entirety, the “Is Paris Burning?” soundtrack album, and “You’ll Never Know,” which was the winner of the 1943 Best Song Oscar from the film “Hello, Frisco, Hello.” We have to go see if there is any bar in the world that still has “As Time Goes By” on the juke box. Have a “such is life” type week.

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